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This conduct of the parliament provides an admirable remedy for the accidental disorders of the state. For though, by the wise distribution of the powers of government, great usurpations are become in a manner impracticable, nevertheless it is impossible but that, in consequence of the continual (though silent) efforts of the executive power to extend itself, abuses will at length slide in. But here the powers, wisely kept in reserve by the parliament, afford the means of remedying them. At the end of each reign, the civil list, and consequently that kind of independence which it procured, are at an end. The successor finds a throne, a sceptre, and a crown; but he finds neither power, nor even dignity; and before a real possession of all these things be given him, the parliament may have it in their power to take a thorough review of the state, as well as correct the several abuses that may have crept in during the preceding reign; and thus the constitution may be brought back to its first principles.*

England, therefore, by this mean, enjoys one very great advantage,-one that all free states have sought to procure for themselves; I mean that of a periodical reformation. But the expedients which legislators have contrived for this purpose in other countries, have always, when attempted to be carried into practice, been found to be productive of very disadvantageous consequences. Those laws which were made in Rome, to restore that equality which is the essence of a democratical government, were always found impracticable: the attempt alone endangered the overthrow of the republic; and the expedient which the Florentines called ripigliar il stato proved nowise happier in its consequences. This was because all those different remedies were destroyed beforehand, by the very evils they were meant to cure; and the greater the abuses were, the more impossible it was to correct them.

But the mean of reformation which the parliament of England has taken care to itself, is the more effectual, as it

majesty, it was moreover enacted, that the commissions of the judges should continue in force notwithstanding the demise of the king ; which has prevented their being dependent, with regard to their continuation in office, on the heir apparent. [There are now fifteen judges.-Ed.]

* See Supplemental Illustrations, No. 3,

goes less directly to its end. It does not oppose the usurpations of prerogative, as it were, in front: it does not encounter it in the middle of its career, and in the fullest flight of its exertion ; but it goes on in search of it to its source, and to the principle of its action. It does not endeavour forcibly to overthrow it; it only enervates its springs.

What increases still more the mildness of the operation, is, that it is only to be applied to the usurpations themselves, and passes by what would be far more formidable to encounter, the obstinacy and pride of the usurpers.

Every thing is transacted with a new sovereign, who, till then, has had no share in public affairs, and has taken no step which he may conceive himself bound in honour to support. In fine, they do not wrest from him what the good of the state requires he should give up; he himself makes the sacrifice.

The truth of all these observations is remarkably confirmed by the events that followed the reign of the two last Henrys. Every barrier that protected the people against the incursions of power had been broken through. The parliament, in their terror, had even enacted that proclamations, that is, the will of the king, should have the force of laws :* the constitution seemed really undone. Yet, on the first opportunity afforded by a new reign, liberty began again to make its appearance. And when the nation, at length recovered from its long supineness, had, at the accession of Charles the First, another opportunity of a change of sovereign, that enormous mass of abuses, which had been accumulating, or gaining strength, during five successive reigns, was removed, and the ancient laws were restored.

To which add, that this second reformation, which was so extensive in its effects, and might be called a new creation of the constitution, was accomplished without producing the least convulsion. Charles the First, in the same manner as Edward the Sixth (or his uncle, the regent duke of Somerset)

* 2 Stat. 31 Hen. VIII. cap. 8.

of The laws concerning treason, passed under Henry the Eighth, which Judge Blackstone calls “an amazing heap of wild and newfangled treasons," were, together with the statute just mentioned, repealed in the beginning of the reign of Edward VI.



had done in former times, assented to every regulation that was passed ; and whatever reluctance he might at first manifest, yet the Act called the Petition of Right (as well as the bill which afterwards completed the work) received the royal sanction without bloodshed.

It is true, great misfortunes followed; but they were the effects of particular circumstances. The nature and extent of regal authority not having been accurately defined during the time which preceded the reigns of the Tudors, the exorbitant power of the princes of that house had gradually in. troduced political prejudices, of even an extravagant kind : those prejudices, having had a hundred and fifty years to take root, could not be shaken off but by a kind of general convulsion; the agitation continued after the action, and was carried to excess by the religious quarrels that arose at that




THE Commons, however, have not entirely relied on the advantages of the great prerogative with which the constitution has intrusted them.

Though this prerogative is, in a manner, out of danger of an immediate attack, they have nevertheless shown at all times the greatest jealousy on its account. They never suffer, as we have observed before, a money-bill to begin any where but with themselves ; and any alteration that may be made in it, in the other house, is sure to be rejected. If the Commons had not most strictly reserved to themselves the exercise of a prerogative on which their very existence depends, the whole might at length have slidden into that other body, which they might have suffered to share in it equally with them. If any other persons, besides the representatives of the people, had a right to make an offer of the produce of the labour of the people, the executive power would soon

have forgetten that it only exists for the advantage of the public.*

Besides, though this prerogative has of itself, we may say, an irresistible efficiency, the parliament has neglected nothing that may increase it, or at least the facility of its exercise ; and though they have allowed the general prerogatives of the sovereign to remain undisputed, they have in several cases endeavoured to restrain the use he might make of them, by entering with him into divers express and solemn conventions for that purpose.t : Thus, the king is indisputably invested with the exclusive

* As the Crown has the undisputed prerogative of assenting to, and dissenting from, what bills it thinks proper, as well as of convening, proroguing, and dissolving the Parliament whenever it pleases, the latter have no assurance of having a regard paid to their bills, or even of being allowed to assemble, but what may result from the need the Crown stands in of their assistance: the danger, in that respect, is even greater for the Commons than for the Lords, who enjoy a dignity which is hereditary as well as inherent to their persons, and form a permanent body in the state ; whereas the Commons completely vanish whenever a dissolution takes place: there is, therefore, no exaggeration in what has been said above, that their very being depends on their power of granting subsidies to the Crown.

Moved by these considerations, and, no doubt, by a sense of their duty towards their constituents, to whom this right of taxation originally belongs, the House of Commons have at all times been very careful lest precedents should be established, which might, in the most distant manner, tend to weaken that right. Hence the warmth, I might say the resentment, with which they have always rejected even the amendments proposed by the Lords in their money-bills. The Lords, how. ever, have not given up their pretension to make such amendments; and it is only by the vigilance and constant predetermination of the Commons to reject all alteration whatever made in their money-bills, without even examining them, that this pretension of the Lords is reduced to be an useless and only dormant claim.

[If the alterations, however, proposed by the Peers be clearly for the public good, the Commons will bring in a new bill (by form of courtesy), embodying the proposed alterations, and pass it instead of the original bill. -Ed.]

f Laws made to bind such powers in a state as have no superior power by which they may be legally compelled to the execution of them (for instance, the Crown, as circumstanced in England), are nothing more than general conventions, or treaties, made with the body of the people.



right of assembling parliaments; yet he must assemble one, at least once in three years; and this obligation on the king, which was insisted upon by the people in very early times, * has been since confirmed by an act passed in the sixteenth year of the reign of Charles the Second.

Moreover, as the most fatal consequences might ensue, if laws, which might most materially affect public liberty, could be enacted in parliaments abruptly and imperfectly summoned, it has been established that the writs for assembling a parliament must be issued forty days at least before the first meeting of it. Upon the same principle it has also been enacted, that the king cannot abridge the term he has once fixed for a prorogation, except in the two following cases, viz. of a rebellion, or of imminent danger of a foreign invasion; in both which cases a fourteen days' notice must be given.

Again, the king is the head of the church ; but he can neither alter the established religion or call individuals to an account for their religious opinions. I He cannot even profess the religion which the legislature has particularly forbidden; and the prince who should profess it is declared incapable of inheriting, possessing, or enjoying the crown of these kingdoms. · The king is the first magistrate; but he can make no change in the maxims and forms consecrated by law or custom: he cannot even influence, in any case whatever, the decision of causes between subject and subject; and James the First, assisting at the trial of a cause, was reminded by the judge that he could deliver no opinion.||

* Parliament has taken care that it shall meet every year, by only voting the Mutiny Bill and the Supplies for one year. Ed. + Stat. 30 Geo. II. c. 25. Repealed.

The convocation or assembly of the clergy, of which the king is the head, can only regulate such affairs as are merely ecclesiastical; they cannot touch the laws, customs, and statutes of the kingdom. Stat. 25 Hen. VIII. c. 19.

$ 1 Will. & M. stat. 2, c. 2.

Il These principles have since been made an express article of an act of parliament; the same which abolished the star-chamber.-"Be it likewise declared and enacted, by the authority of this present parliament, that neither his majesty, nor his privy-council, have, or ought to have, any jurisdiction, power, or authority, to examine or draw into

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